Age is just a number: Meet the oldest person CLBC supports

Bill South and his wife Pat enjoy some time together when she drops by for a visit at the care home where he lives.

At 95 years old, Bill South holds the unique distinction of being the oldest person CLBC supports. While recent years have seen him move into a care facility from the home he shared with Pat, his wife of 32 years, he is still vibrant, engaging and happy to share the story of the life he’s lived and the people he’s met along the way.

A lifetime of experiences

Bill was born the youngest of three boys on October 4, 1924, in Saskatoon. He has good memories of growing up with his older brothers, and his mother and father. After Bill’s father passed away, he continued to live with his mother until her passing in the 1970s. Always reliable and hard-working, he recalls fondly the variety of jobs he performed including working on a dairy farm, at a post office, in a furniture auction house and washing cars.

Bill South (far right) in a family portrait with his parents and brothers Stan (standing) and Bert (seated).

“My brother Bert delivered parcels for the post office and he helped me get the janitor job,” says Bill. “Sometimes we would deliver the parcels together. I liked that.”

With their mother gone, Bill came to live with his brother Stan in Cassidy, south of Nanaimo. They lived together for a short time before Bill got an apartment of his own in Nanaimo.

Bill was one of the first people to receive support from Semi Independent Living (SIL), a Nanaimo service provider that began 36 years ago and still supports him today. SIL assists individuals to navigate various ministry services, community services, support with medical appointments, shopping, budgeting and other parts of daily life.

“Bill always puts others first and makes sure people are taken care of,” says Barb, Bill’s Community Support Worker from SIL. “He never complains and would give anyone the shirt off his back. He is a lovely man.”

Bill didn’t stop working when he arrived in Nanaimo and through his different jobs he left his fingerprints on the community he is proud to call home. He worked for the now-closed Captain Cook’s Lumberyard on Bowen Road and landscaped at Malaspina College (now Vancouver Island University) with his boss Peter, with whom he is still friends. He helped to develop the woodworking shop at NARCO (now Clay Tree Society), with Dante, a support worker. Tables built by Bill are still in use at the MGM Restaurant, and some of his landscaping is still on display at VIU.

Building a life together in community

It was at NARCO that Bill met his wife Pat. They were married on Valentine’s Day, 1987 in Bowen Park, Nanaimo. The wedding planners were Marlene and Eve from SIL. Dante was Bill’s groomsman, and Bernadette was Pat’s bridesmaid. The wedding was joyfully attended by family and friends.

Bill and Pat were married on Valentine’s Day of 1987 in the company of family and friends, with Dante and Bernadette serving as groomsman and bridesmaid.

“She was a lot of fun when I met her,” says Bill. “We have a good time together.”

Pat and Bill purchased their first home on Strickland Avenue, and their second home was in Chase River, a neighbourhood in Nanaimo. In 2014, they decided the maintenance was too much for them, so they sold their home and moved to Pacifica Housing, where Pat still resides.

“We always had animals in all of our homes,” said Pat. “We had budgies, cockatiels, cats and dogs. My favorite was our last dog, Tiffany.”

Bill moved to Malaspina Gardens in August 2015, then to a new care facility in Chase River in August 2017. He says the staff “take good care of me.” With the support of SIL and Bill’s niece, Wendy, Pat and Bill spend time with each other several times a week.

Bill and Pat both talk about their rich social life and the friends they still see and those they miss. Their dear friends, Peter and Anneke, whom Bill met landscaping (Peter was Bill’s boss) both now reside at Malaspina.

“Peter and his wife were always so nice to us,” says Pat.

“I sure had a good time with the people I have known over the years,” says Bill.

One thing is for sure, Bill and Pat created a full and interesting life for themselves, supported in large part by a caring network of support workers, family and friends.

Measuring a full life: CLBC’s include Me! quality of life survey

As Bill’s story shows, interpersonal relationships with colleagues, friends, loved ones and others in the community play an important role in living a long and meaningful life.

For the past eight years, CLBC has been asking the people it serves about their quality of life. The include me! survey helps CLBC and its service providers across B.C. understand how different factors, including interpersonal relationships, can help improve people’s quality of life.

You can learn more by reading the story “Survey shows the way forward” from this edition of CLBC Connect.

Click here for more information about the include Me! quality of life survey.

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